Highway 51 Blues

Commentary

Highway 51 Blues has an interesting history. Highway 51 is an actual road that runs from New Orleans to Wisconsin. It was one of the primary routes southern blacks used as they migrated to the north in search of factory jobs in the big cities.

On Dylan first album, Bob Dylan, the song is credited to Curtis Jones, a blues piano player.  Tommy McClennan’s New Highway 51 is an updated version of Jones’ song.

The Everly Brothers did a rockabilly version of Highway 51. They also used the same chord structure for their big hit, Wake Up Little Suzie. If you listen closely you can hear Little Suzie in Dylan’s Highway 51. Todd Harvey 1 notes that Dylan borrowed the same chord structure years later for  It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

Dylan performs the song with a rock ’n’ roll passion that is heartfelt and convincing. Highway 51 is one of the highlights of the album.

A YouTube playlist of  Highway 51’s “relatives”.


Lyrics

Highway 51 runs right by my baby’s door
Highway 51 runs right by my baby’s door
If I don’t get the girl I’m loving
Won’t go down to Highway 51 no more.

Well, I know that highway like I know my hand
Yes, I know that highway like I know the back of my hand
Running from up Wisconsin way down to no man’s land.

Well, if I should die before my time should come
And if I should die before my time should come
Won’t you bury my body out on the Highway 51.

Highway 51 runs right by my baby’s door
I said, Highway 51 runs right by my baby’s door
If I don’t get the girl I’m loving
Won’t go down to Highway 51 no more.

Notes:

  1. The Formative Bob Dylan

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